I’m too cool for TV…not!

If you* don’t like TV, if you identify as someone who “doesn’t watch TV” and gloats about it at parties and yet…you gawk at YouTube, gape at movies and–yes–view TV shows like Project Runway, Grey’s Anatomy or Glee over a computer screen then I suggest you own up.

I don’t watch much TV and I’m not a fan of mainstream movies and I did live for a number of years without TV just fine. But THAT WAS THEN and THIS IS NOW. If you want to have a dialog with anyone under the age of 25–or me; if you want to be part of the collective conversation then step up and tune in.

This PC snobbery doesn’t work for most people and though the majority of them are too polite to say it to your face, it doesn’t feel good. I’m not advocating that you have to watch reality shows, soaps or car chases; be choosy. Much of the great stuff being made is no longer in movie theaters but on TV.

And even if you don’t watch, be informed. When I didn’t have a TV, I read reviews of TV shows in the S.F. Chronicle or the New Yorker–that’s how I found The Sopranos though I didn’t actually watch it until it had ended.

How about making each other feel good, suggesting something substantial or succulent, being connected instead of superior. Life has plenty of crap–not all on TV–but our aspiration might be to refine whatever we do to inspire not degrade.

Not “watching TV” but being on Facebook, Twitter, playing video games, etc. is so similar that superiority is a gossamer veil of delusion. There’s no shame here, just wishing for a bit more honesty.

P.S. getting shows from Netflix = TV

*the communal You

2 thoughts on “I’m too cool for TV…not!

  1. “Too cool for TV”? “Superior”? Your rants against those against TV fall into fallacy. There are plenty of reasons to avoid TV besides snobbery.

    First, its commercial contexts exploit and insult the viewer. If you respond that one may turn to cable television, to HBO, etc., then the commercial element is just as prominent: monthly checks to be sent to Comcast or Qwest.

    My childhood experiences with TV left me feeling insulted, offended, disgusted. It promised entertainment, education, even art, yet it delivered so much less. I grew habituated at an early age. My habit included Johnny Weismuller as Tarzan at 4:00 on Sundays, the Walt Disney Show at 7:00 on Sundays, Daniel Boone at 8:00 on Thursdays, and Lassie at 2:00 on Saturdays. When I went to college, that all changed. I preferred books and still do.

    Public TV, like National Public Radio, came to be almost as suspect as commercial networks. PBS captures funds from companies that need to cleanse their reputations. Exxon, Monsanto, Boise-Cascade. Companies like these exploit TV to greenwash their bad actions. What results is a kind of ecopornography, a propaganda that features nature stripped bare every smudge of industry. Sponsorship of liberal programming buys cheap PR in the market segment most skeptical of corporate messaging. Sponsorship imparts a luster of kindness to companies benighted by malfeasance or greed. “Enhanced sponsor credits” on nonprofit stations became de facto commercials – bearing logos and slogans, promises and pledges, telephone numbers and now even web sites. Ever since Congress and the U. S. President began gunning for hosts like Bill Moyers, alleging they have liberal agendas, public television has become even more bland and circumspect. The Fox faux principle of fair and balanced coverage has been taken to extreme degrees. Instead of simply reporting well, PBS commentators scrape the barrels, beat the bushes, to flush out divergent points of view. Controversy-averse, they have eyes trained on the censors.

    A wretched image of my father entering retirement sticks with me. When the Sunday paper brought the guide to network listings, he mapped out the separate evenings of his week. He studied the listings in the network grids and circled his favorite shows. Hour after hour, week after week, he rarely varied the routine. Toward the end of each evening’s canned laughs and ham-handed humor, he treated himself to a bowl of ice cream topped with maple syrup, treacle following treacle. Friendships may falter and conventional bets erode, but lockstep programs bring constancy to our lives. Everything works out in TV Land. In the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes, Bill Watterson bashed the TV often. Calvin made watching it “a complete forfeiture of experience.” He drooled, mouth open, “eyes half-focused.” Naïve Calvin yearned to “take a passive entertainment and extend the passivity” to his “entire being.” Inertia ultimately set in, and he could almost feel his “neural transmitters shutting down.” His wise tiger, Hobbes, vacated the premises before Calvin began “attracting flies.” A whole string of strips from Bill Watterson gored the sacred ox of America’s favorite form of relaxation. Having taken the medium of the comic strip as far as it would allow him, Watterson retired from public life. Would that TV could critique itself so well.

    Following college, I discovered the book Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television by former ad executive Jerry Mander. “At first, I was amused by TV’s power,” Mander wrote, “then dazzled by it and fascinated with how it worked. Later, I tried to use mass media for what seemed worthwhile purposes, only to find it resistant and limited.” In Mander’s firsthand view I felt affirmed, corroborated, allied in trepidation against the supremacy of the tube. I was not merely a captive to suspicion and fear; my regard for everything televised had grown primal, gut-level. Inwardly I cheered when first Hunter Thompson and then Edward Abbey posed for photos beside TVs whose screens they had shattered with rifle slugs. I confess to have blasted a TV set or two myself. Symbolic action, I reasoned, was better than no action at all. The antique picture tubes made fine and lively implosions when they went.

    In the movie Being There, Peter Sellers plays the character Chance the Gardener, a passive victim of TV whom his society mistakes for a prophet. The catchphrase of Gardener is “I like to watch.” Television holds his attention and keeps him tranquil. Author Jerzy Kisinski, who wrote the novel and the screenplay, was depicting television viewers as empty conduits for frothy nonsense. Interviewed about the film, Kisinski warned, “Imagining groups of solitary individuals watching their private, remote-controlled TV sets is the ultimate future terror: a nation of videots.” In the arts I found other souls distrustful of TV.

    By unplugging, we hope to weaken corporate control over our lives, regain our squandered time, and parent in more responsible ways.

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    • I agree with all you said Paul! And I also read Jerry Mander’s book. (sorry for the late reply–your message went to spam). I find most TV/movies propaganda or ads in disguise or I’m also “insulted,offended, disgusted.” My point isn’t necessarily about the value of TV/movies as much as the hypocrisy of some people who narrowly define “TV” but watch shows on their computer, things on YouTube, have Hulu or Netflix and then like to smugly congratulate themselves for being TV-less. Superiority and hypocrisy hurt people and don’t even attempt to educate.

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